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Four Years at the Mount

Sophomore year

Thanks for the luck, we need it...

Sarah Muir
MSM Class of 2018

(8/2015) In one of my previous articles, I mentioned my fondness for newspapers. Now, this fondness maybe tinged with the barest hint of a personal bias, seeing how I currently write for one. However, my preferences toward the news being expressed in the written word has less to do with my job and more to do with what I see when I look to television for news.

If I am being honest, I do not watch the news as often as I should, and the reason for this is not because I revel in ignorance. It is rather because it seems as though every time I turn to the news station to educate myself on the events happening in the wide world, I find myself watching some sort of mindless, fluff piece. The fake smiles and seemingly endless, pointless chatter irritate me to no end, and I find myself changing the channel or turning it off altogether. The fact is, when I turn to the news, I tune in, looking for information, for unbiased facts about affairs both foreign and domestic.

"Goodnight and Good Luck" is a movie that depicts the famous speech by Edward R. Murrow in 1958. Murrow was a journalist, a news anchor, and radio personality. He was best known as a World War II correspondent who risked his life to report on the war, most notably, on the bombing of London. He was a highly influential journalist who brought the real world into peopleís homes.

In this speech, later titled, "Wires and Lights in a Box," he warns against the complacency and ignorance that will happen to the public if these forms of communication (i.e. television, radio, etc.) turn completely from informing the public, to entertaining the masses. He foreshadows a future that will look back on our history and "Öthey will there find recorded in black and white, or perhaps in color, evidence of decadence, escapism and insulation from the realities of the world in which we live." If Murrow was still alive today, I feel as though it would be in his right to say "I told you so."

I find, as I look on my own culture, we have fallen into the "escapism and insulation" that Murrow foresaw. We are getting into the habit of child-proofing our media. Anything that the media believes will make us too uncomfortable, that shows something in an honest, but ugly light, is watered-down, sugar-coated, wrapped up in pretty paper and served to us with fake smiles and assurance that everything is going to be "okay."

This timidity and insulation found in media is translating to our culture. People are wary of saying or doing anything that might remotely upset someone, so we are teaching our future generations to always wear their kiddy gloves. However, this timidity is unwarranted and Murrow gives credit where credit is due: "I have reason to know, as do many of you, that when the evidence on a controversial subject is fairly and calmly presented, the public recognizes it for what it is-- an effort to illuminate rather than to agitate."

That is the purpose of news: to provide the facts to the listener without personal vendettas, beliefs, or selfish interests. The media has always been in a seat of power, whether it be radio, television, or plays. Media has always controlled how we view the world, whether it be by posters, billboards, or television ads. Because of this, I believe the media feels obligated to protect us from things that make us uncomfortable, but these are the things that show the world as it really is. This sense of security is dangerous because it leads to complacency, and again, as if he was seeing the future Murrow stated, "If we go on as we are, we are protecting the mind of the American public from any real contact with the menacing world that squeezes in upon us."

My favorite comic strip is Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson. I remember this one, where Calvin is talking about his television shows and he says something that reflects our current culture pretty well, "As far as Iím concerned, if something is so complicated that you canít explain it in 10 seconds, then itís probably not worth knowing anyway."

Our attention span has become accustomed to short versions of long stories, fast results to difficult problems. We want to know what is happening, but we rarely have the patience for the whole story. Murrow has a moment of nostalgia in his speech, where he thinks "back to the time when singing commercials were not allowed on news reports, when there was no middle commercial in a 15-minute news report, when radio was rather proud, and alert, and fast." A vast majority of the news we have today, news that is considered as something to be commercialized and sold to the masses, is not news at all.

To make an informed decision, one must have all the facts, no matter how uncomfortable those facts make us. We must beware of becoming a culture that is solely reliant on five minute news stories.

I shall end this article with yet another quote from Edward R. Murrow, for I find his words better suited than mine: "We are currently wealthy, fat, comfortable and complacent. We have currently a built-in allergy to unpleasant or disturbing information. And our mass media reflect this. But unless we get up off our fat surpluses and recognize that television in the main is being used to distract, delude, amuse and insulate us, then television and those who finance it, those who look at it and those who work at it, may see a totally different picture too late."

Read other articles by Sarah Muir